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Tennessee Downtowns

  • Overview
  • Eligibility
  • Application Process
  • Overview

    Tennessee Downtowns is an affiliated program of Tennessee Main Street designed to help communities embark on a comprehensive revitalization effort for their downtown.  Using the proven National Main Street Center’s Four-Point Approach® to downtown revitalization, this 24-month program coaches selected downtowns and their steering committees through the steps of launching an effective revitalization effort.  Space in this program is limited and highly competitive. Program activities include training, site visits, regional workshops, webinars, technical assistance and an innovation project grant.

    To participate in Tennessee Downtowns, communities must:

    • Define a project area concentrating efforts on a traditional commercial district that is typically at least 50 years old.
    • Have a designated five-member volunteer steering committee dedicated to going through the training and program process.
    • Have a designated non-profit 501(c)(3) organization or city municipality that will host the steering committee for the program and associated grant project.
    • Illustrate interest on the behalf of the citizens for the revitalization of downtown.
    • Illustrate how the city and county government recognizes the importance of downtown as an asset to the community.
    • Adopt a resolution by the city government to participate in the program.
    • Clearly demonstrate economic need for a downtown revitalization effort through economic factors such as high vacancy rates in downtown, lack of businesses downtown, disinvestment in the area (either public or private), dilapidated buildings or aging infrastructure.
    • Submit a complete application to participate in an upcoming “round” (please contact us for the timeline).
    • Join the National Main Street Center as a “Standard member”.

    Forty-six communities have participated in the Tennessee Downtowns program, which makes them eligible for ECD’s Façade Improvement Grant program. 

    Applications for Tennessee Downtowns are accepted every two years. The next round launches January 2018.

    Downtown Communities

    Arlington Ashland City Athens Brownsville
    Carthage Celina Centerville Clifton
    Crossville Dickson Ducktown Erwin
    Etowah Gainesboro Greenfield Henderson
    Hohenwald Humboldt Jamestown Jefferson City
    Lenoir City Lewisburg Linden Livingston
    Lynchburg Manchester Martin McKenzie
    Milan Monterey Mount Pleasant Mountain City
    Paris Pikesville Portland Red Boiling Springs
    Rockwood Selmer Shelbyville Smithville
    Sweetwater Tracy City Wartburg Waynesboro
    White Bluff Woodbury    


  • Eligibility

    Space in the Tennessee Downtowns program is limited and highly competitive. To participate in Tennessee Downtowns, communities must have not previously participated in the program and:

    • Be a city located in a county that is an active participant in the ThreeStar program.
    • Designate a program area (revitalization district) focused on a traditional commercial district. The district should feature a pedestrian scale and orientation that is compact in size and has a regular pattern of sidewalks that can be comfortably walked. It should also have a critical mass of buildings, at least 2/3 of which are commercial in nature, and businesses which form the foundation for revitalization efforts.
    • Establish a dedicated five member volunteer “Downtown Revitalization Steering Committee” of community leaders who will participate for the length of the program. This will involve allocating time for on-site meetings and training sessions.
    • Have a designated non-profit or local government organization that will house the steering committee and serve as a conduit for the associated grant. This organization must have the financial resources to spend $15,000 on a project which will be reimbursed through the Tennessee Downtowns program upon completion. It must also become a member of the National Main Street Center ($250 annually).
    • Illustrate interest and support from local government, chambers of commerce, merchant organizations, business and property owner’s within the district, and others who recognize the importance of downtown to their community and are willing to learn along with the steering committee and be involved where needed.
    • Adopt a resolution by the city government to participate in the program.
    • Clearly demonstrate community need for downtown revitalization assistance.
  • Application Process

    Six communities will be selected in 2016 to participate in the 24 month Tennessee Downtowns program. The selection of communities will take place through a competitive application process (application attached). Completed applications must be received by 4:30 PM CST on April 30, 2016. To apply, please follow these steps:

    Step 1: Review the eligibility requirements and be prepared to demonstrate those in the application.

    Step 2: Assemble your steering committee, the group responsible for preparing the application. Ask if there are any questions regarding the program and application process before beginning.

    Step 3: Mail or deliver electronically via email a Letter of Intent to Apply (sample attached) to the contact below prior to April 1, 2016.

    Step 4: Complete the attached application. Answer all questions and include all requested attachments. Tell your story well! We want to learn about your community and desires for improvement. The Tennessee Downtowns application is extensive, but the time involved in completing it will be well spent. Regardless of whether you are selected to participate in the program at this time, you will have assembled valuable reference materials for your community that can be used to further your goals.

    Step 5: Mail one CD or flash drive or deliver electronically via email one complete PDF file of your final application to the contacts below. Make sure that you have received verification by email or phone that your application was received prior to the deadline highlighted above. Sending the Letter of Intent early on will help us know about your plan to submit an application.

    Step 6: Application reviews will take place during May and June of 2016. Selected communities will be announced on June 17, 2016. Announcements of selected communities will be made via email and/or telephone to the primary contacts listed on the application. A Department of Economic and Community Development press release will follow. Once that occurs, selected communities may begin their own publicity campaigns.